[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: sex differences in perception of environmental sounds

Dear Joanna,
In a recent article [1], we have investigated how different listeners categorize environmental sounds: they were presented with a set of sounds recorded in a kitchen, and required to categorize them, according to whichever criteria they found relevant. Afterwards, they had to indicate if they had used one of the following similarity to make each of their groups: acoustical, based on the similarity of the causal event, based on semantic associations. We found that the main difference was between listeners who were "expert" (acousticians, psychoacousticians, sound engineers, professional musicians, etc.), and those who had no particular training in listening. I just reanalyzed the data to check a potential effect of gender: there was none.

All our sounds were "sound of objects", so we had nothing like baby crying. And, in my opinion, environmental sounds do not include human vocalizations. Personally, I always use Vanderveer's definition [2]: "... any possible audible acoustic event which is caused by motions in the ordinary human environment. (...) Besides 1) having real events as their sources (...) 2) [they] are usually more ``complex'' than laboratory sinusoids, (...) 3) [they] are meaningful, in the sense that they specify events in the environment. (...) 4) The sounds to be considered are not part of a communication system, or communication sounds, they are taken in their literal rather than signal or symbolic interpretation." To me, the most important part of this definition is that they are not part of a communication system. This excludes speech, music, and possibly, animal communication (though I am not completely sure of the latter). In fact, and in my opinion, the perception of the sound of, say, a ball bouncing is very different from speech: whereas, in the latter case, both the producer and the receiver use an explicit symbolic system to communicate (associate a meaning to the sound), there is no such system in the former. We, as human listeners, identify that a ball is bouncing, based on some psychological mechanism that is somehow capable of capturing the physical regularities of our environment. To my knowledge, these mechanisms are far from being understood. Some behavioral and neurological data suggest that these mechanisms might have a lot in common with language perception (you can have a look James Ballas' work, or recent EEG studies in semantic priming with environmental sounds), but this is something that requires of lot more of investigation (and is fascinating area).

I am not at all a specialist in developmental psychology, but I remember having read somewhere that baby use different cries to mean different things. If this is correct, in my opinion, the perception of baby cries is therefore more related to the development of language in infants (and especially how the specificities of the adult/infant simplified communication participates to the development of language) than to environmental sound perception. Just curious to know what people from the field thing about it.


[1] Guillaume Lemaitre, Olivier Houix, Nicolas Misdariis and Patrick Susini (2010), “Listener expertise and sound identification influence the categorization of environmental sounds", Journal of Experimental Psychology: applied, vol. 16(1), pp. 16-32.

[2] Nancy Jean Vanderveer, "Ecological acoustics: human perception of environmental sounds", PhD dissertation, Cornell University, 1979

Joanna Kantor-Martynuska wrote:
Dear Auditory List,

I would very much appreciate your suggestions about the literature regarding sex differences in perception of environmental sounds. I’m intrested in physiological indices of auditory predispositions for perception of different sounds we encounter in our natural environment.

Looking forward to any interesting suggestions or links.

Joanna Kantor

Guillaume Lemaitre
Post-doctoral Research Associate

Carnegie Mellon University
Department of Psychology - Auditory Lab
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA
tel: +1 412-268-4193